define

verb
de·​fine | \ di-ˈfīn How to pronounce define (audio) \
defined; defining

Definition of define

transitive verb

1a : to determine or identify the essential qualities or meaning of whatever defines us as human
b : to discover and set forth the meaning of (something, such as a word) how the dictionary defines "grotesque"
c computing : to create with established rules or parameters define a window define a procedure
2a : to fix or mark the limits of : demarcate rigidly defined property lines
b : to make distinct, clear, or detailed especially in outline the issues aren't too well defined eyes defined by mascara
3 : characterize, distinguish you define yourself by the choices you makeDenison Univ. Bull. the moment that defined the campaign

intransitive verb

: to make a definition (see definition sense 1a)

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Other Words from define

definement \ di-​ˈfīn-​mənt How to pronounce definement (audio) \ noun
definer \ di-​ˈfī-​nər How to pronounce definer (audio) \ noun

Examples of define in a Sentence

a term that is difficult to define The government study seeks to define urban poverty. Her book aims to define acceptable social behavior. She believes that success should be defined in terms of health and happiness. That fence defines the far edge of the property.
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Recent Examples on the Web

But Einstein’s theory made important predictions about black holes too, notably that a black hole can be completely defined by only three features: its mass, charge, and spin. Fox News, "Video from 2011 creates headaches for Sinema," 12 Oct. 2018 Overrun—basically the amount of air that's beaten into ice cream or frozen custard—is another defining characteristic, and the two are prepared using different methods. Katie Bowlby, Country Living, "What's the Difference Between Custard and Ice Cream?," 25 Apr. 2019 The measure would have prevented building permits for new or expanded large dairies, defined as those with more than 2,500 cows. Sarah Zimmerman, The Seattle Times, "Key deadline means end of the road for hundreds of bills," 11 Apr. 2019 For those unfamiliar with body modification, it's defined as the deliberate altering of the human body or physical appearance, including tattoos and piercings as well as plastic surgery, in some cases. Kaleigh Fasanella, Allure, "A Man Had Part of His Ear Cut Out in a Controversial “Conch Removal” Procedure," 28 Mar. 2019 And competition is heating up: The advent of more fuel-efficient planes has led several airlines to start new ultra-long-haul flights, defined as more than 8,000 miles one way. Kristen Leigh Painter, Condé Nast Traveler, "How Air Travel Will Change in 2019," 13 Dec. 2018 The group, which defines mass shootings as ones in which four or more people are killed or injured, has identified 159 so far this year, through July 3. Heidi De Marco, chicagotribune.com, "The other victims: first responders to horrific disasters often suffer in solitude," 13 July 2018 About half of the students in those schools are from upper-income families, which was defined as those with annual household incomes exceeding about $99,000. Eric Stirgus, ajc, "Study: More middle-income students squeezed from top colleges," 12 July 2018 An outgrowth of a turbulent era, that year would come to define a generation and, ultimately, the nation. Eric Ginsburg, Teen Vogue, "How April 1968 Changed the United States Forever," 19 Apr. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'define.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of define

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for define

Middle English diffinen, defynen, borrowed from Anglo-French definer, diffiner, borrowed (with conjugation change) from Medieval Latin dēfīnīre, diffīnīre (dif- by association with dif-, assimilated form of dis- dis-), going back to Latin dēfīnīre "to mark the limits of, determine, give an exact description of," from dē- de- + fīnīre "to mark out the boundaries of, limit" — more at finish entry 1

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Statistics for define

Last Updated

21 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for define

The first known use of define was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for define

define

verb

English Language Learners Definition of define

: to explain the meaning of (a word, phrase, etc.)
: to show or describe (someone or something) clearly and completely
: to show the shape, outline, or edge of (something) very clearly

define

verb
de·​fine | \ di-ˈfīn How to pronounce define (audio) \
defined; defining

Kids Definition of define

1 : to explain the meaning of define a word
2 : to make clear especially in outline Your responsibilities are defined in the handout.

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More from Merriam-Webster on define

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with define

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for define

Spanish Central: Translation of define

Nglish: Translation of define for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of define for Arabic Speakers

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